Inter-University Network is more than just a platform for collaborations, but to drive long-lasting change

The IUN is necessary for Singapore's university students, but it needs to evolve and adapt to better serve their needs.

Chan Juun Kit

Published: 7 March 2023, 11:32 AM

With the University Leaders Dialogue (ULD) having wrapped up its second run earlier this February, my tenure as an active member of the Inter-University Network (IUN) and Vice-President of the Singapore Management University’s Student Association (SMUSA) draws to a close as well.

Reflecting on the past year, I have gained a newfound appreciation for the importance of a platform that connects student unions across local universities. The IUN serves as a crucial avenue for promoting undergraduate welfare, collaboratively creating solutions to common issues and sharing best practices and ideas which leaders can take and adapt to their respective contexts. 

It also provides an opportunity for smaller unions, like the newly-established Singapore University of Social Sciences Community of Student Voices (1SUSS), to gain exposure while more established unions can contribute their resources and expertise.

Throughout my involvement in the IUN, I witnessed its successes firsthand.

One of the most notable achievements was the launch of UCare, an initiative aimed at understanding the mental health stressors experienced by undergraduates. This project was the first of its kind, requiring collaboration across the six autonomous universities – a process I found enjoyable as we all shared a common passion for the mental health sector. 

UCare yielded several actionables, and it was heartening to see that many higher-ups were receptive to our concerns and acted on them. The impact of UCare was especially evident in the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), where the administration office implemented several of our recommendations, such as expanding peer support training and providing additional space for mental wellness corners.

What began as a brief pitch by the leaders of the Yale-NUS Student Government in Dec 2021 grew into a fruitful discussion that resulted in long-lasting change. This experience has inspired leaders like myself to dream big for the future of the IUN.

Personally, my aspirations for the IUN are for it to evolve into a platform that addresses issues that go beyond the institutional level, that concern undergraduates across the country – a contrast from the current problems raised by members which are oftentimes academic or school-related.


The National Youth Council (NYC) works closely with the IUN to provide the students with the necessary resources and support to further their initiatives. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL


What could make the IUN more impactful would be to look at the bigger picture, focusing on issues that may have macro implications beyond those that we face within our schools.

I liken it to Plato’s allegory of a cave, where people facing a wall see only shadows projected by a fire, and the shadows become their reality. 

To illustrate, during the ULD, a participant voiced the common concern that the present batches of undergraduates feel like guinea pigs to interdisciplinary education. She then asked how the quality of such modules can be elevated.

While it is a valid concern, rather than simply looking at the issue from the perspective of a student, it’d be good if members could try to understand the various aspects and consider why there’s such a focus in the first place. Many a time, students are unable to see the broader societal issues due to lack of exposure and experience.

It’s thus important to extrapolate the problem and work with stakeholders beyond our own schools to address the situation as it’s usually a trickle-down effect. One way I’ve learnt to do this is by volunteering with grassroots organisations. It’s helped me to break out of that rat race mindset and be more cognisant of the issues the wider community faces.

Of course, balancing my commitment to the IUN with my volunteer work and internship has been difficult, and there have been times when all three commitments have clashed. But at the end of the day, I believe that the work we do in the IUN is important and worth the effort.


Juun Kit with the National Youth Council (NYC)’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr David Chua. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL


Another challenge the IUN leaders face is the diversity of visions for the entity.

While I personally envision the IUN developing into a platform with a broader outreach, not all leaders share the same sentiment. Some may be more focused on advocating on issues that concern their respective constituents.

The IUN, much like any other collaborative body, requires consensus. Each school has their respective areas of focus , and may not see eye to eye sometimes. On top of this, the leadership rotates annually. This can lead to wasted efforts should the succeeding batch decide not to follow through with the projects that are underway.

Despite some of these challenges, I believe that the IUN can overcome these to find ways to best serve our constituents. After all, what you face at Changi is the same as what you face at Clementi or at Pioneer. 

I do understand that the IUN is still in its infancy and is still finding its feet in the university landscape. 

Looking ahead, I’m certain that the IUN can reach its fullest potential as long as its members are willing to work together to push for change as a collective of 71,000 individuals. 

University is a unique time in our lives, where we have the time, energy, money, and knowledge to pursue our own interests and make a difference in society. The IUN is determined by what us members want it to be, so let us dream big and do big.

This piece is written by the former vice-president of SMU’s Student Association Chan Juun Kit.

You may like these